VOXXI sat down with Spanish costume designer Paco Delgado to talk about his Oscar-nominated work on the blockbuster Hollywood movie, "Les Miserables".
Q&A with Paco Delgado
VOXXI: As head costume designer for "Les Miserables", you oversaw the production of almost 2200 outfits. What was the most challenging part of completing that monumental task?
Paco Delgado: Well, I was really, really scared at the beginning… just the dimension of the whole thing. The biggest challenge for me was transforming one of the world’s most successful musicals, which has been running for 25 years and has been seen by over 80,000 people. It was a big, big challenge because so many people were going into the cinema expecting to see something they have in their memories. I had to fight against that but still keep some of the essence.
VOXXI: The costumes play a huge role in recreating the era depicted in the film. How were you able to bring it to life?
Paco Delgado: I had to create a whole world, and I tried to use a lot of color and texture to bring it to life. It really depends on the character. For Jean Valjean, he starts as a convict at the bottom of society so I wanted to work with materials that have a lot of texture and are very rough and little by little, use finer materials with less texture, as things went well for him… different colors, more complexity.
In the original book, Fantine is supposed to be a type of coquette. She’s a young girl who dressed well in the past but goes through a lot of problems, so I wanted to capture that… reminding of who she was, carrying on in terms of making her clothes rougher and rougher, essentially the opposite of Jean Valjean. She starts out with a pinkish dress and ends up red…the idea of a girl flowering into life.
VOXXI: Not only have you been nominated for an Oscar this year, but you were also nominated for Spain’s Goya Award in Costume Designing and the BAFTA. How does it feel to have your work so widely celebrated?
Paco Delgado: The thing is I couldn’t believe it. To be honest, I was home on Tuesday and I got a phone call that I had been nominated for the Goya award, and it was an amazing joy. I got a call the next day that I got nominated for the BAFTA and then Thursday nominated for the Oscar. I really couldn’t believe it, I was floating. I mean the Oscar…just the nomination is an award. I feel so happy that the academy has nominated me for this. It took a couple days for me to take it in that I was really nominated for them all. An amazing team worked with me and they all deserve credit.
VOXXI: What led to you to become a costume designer for movies? Is it something you have always wanted to do?
Paco Delgado: Funnily enough I started out working on designing sets in high school. Once I ended up doing costume designs for a play because there wasn’t much need for a set designer. The people in charge thought I did a great job though and I just kept at it. It wasn’t exactly what I was trained to do or wanted to do. It made me look at costumes as something really very interesting and that’s how it happened.
VOXXI: Was your experience working in Hollywood very different to your work on films in Spain?
Paco Delgado: The differences are crazy, one movie is going to be seen all over the world. "Les Miserables" is definitely the biggest movie I have worked on in my life. In the end though, while it is more demanding, the qualities are the same. It’s a universal language, you find a lot of similarities between Hollywood and Spanish moviemaking cause well…at the end of the day your making movies. Working on "Les Mis" was very demanding, especially knowing they had chosen you over a lot of people to design the costumes for this movie. In the end, it’s just about putting passion in the work. They put all their expectations and hopes in us and we have to fulfill it in both cases. The dimension is different but the expectations are the same.
VOXXI: What was it like to work with Pedro Almodovar, who many consider the greatest filmmaker in Spanish history?
Paco Delgado: It was a big responsibility, because his movies are very magical and colorful, and he loves sets and costumes. It’s very hard for a designer, but wonderful because of the unique visuals in the movie. I always had a nice relationship with Pedro. He knows what he wants…not all directors know what they want and it’s hard to imagine what they have in their heads, but Pedro knew. It was challenging but reassuring that the work is going to be good because we were following his vision.
VOXXI: What’s next? Any new projects in the works?
Paco Delgado: I’m very superstitious so I prefer not to talk about projects until they’re finished so I don’t have bad luck. I have options to do a couple things but until they’re 100 percent, I prefer not to talk about them.
VOXXI: What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t working on movies?
Paco Delgado: I love reading, going to exhibitions, drawing…I love going home, gardening, walking the dog. I try to have a normal life when I’m not working. I’m a simple guy. I love cooking and eating…I’m a little overweight *laughs*. I also go to the cinema cause when you’re working on a movie you don’t have time for yourself.
"Les Miserables" is playing in theaters nationwide.
Originally published in VOXXI as Interview with Oscar nominated costume designer Paco Delgado.